Liars can be oh-so good at it. Some people were just born to lie and they can do it really convincingly. Don’t blame yourself for being taken in – it just means that you are a trusting person. Look at the liar and accept that there is something wrong with them.
Let’s be realistic – little white lies happen. In fact, research has found that when lying is done for the right reasons (such as to protect someone’s feelings) it can actually strengthen a relationship. ‘So that’s the orange cocktail dress you’ve spent a month’s pay on? Wow – you weren’t kidding when you said it was bright. Oh, it has pandas on it. And they’re smiling. And the shop doesn’t take returns. And you love it. Well keep smiling gorgeous. You look amazing!’. However, when lies are told with malicious intent and for personal gain, it will always weaken relationships. Relationships are meant to be fun, but none of us are meant to be played.
It might be due to low self-esteem and the need to feel in control. Some people get a real kick out of fooling others as it makes them feel clever and powerful. For others, childhood trauma may have set up damaging habits they still use as adults. Lying can be a defense mechanism for a child to get out of trouble and this habit gets wired into the brain which means it’s very likely to continue, even into adulthood.
The confusing part is that liars have nice sides too – this is what draws you in, in the first place. Perhaps they help you out financially, make you feel unconditionally accepted, love you (although only if you follow their rules) and can be good people at times. You end up longing for that person but over time, they come out to play less and less.
There are regular gaps where you don’t know where your partner is or what they are doing
Infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship – that depends on the circumstances and the people involved and it’s not for anyone else to judge whether or not you should stay. It’s a deeply personal decision and one you can make in strength either way, but when infidelity happens more than once, or when it happens without remorse or commitment to the future of the relationship, it will cause breakage. When people show you over and over that they aren’t capable of loving you the way you want to be loved, believe them. Move them out of the damn way so that better things can find you.
What your partner says and does are two different things
When someone can’t say enough when it comes to saying I love you, I miss you, you are my world, never felt like this before it’s wonderful to hear but too many compliments might mean insincerity. A person can be very smooth with words and know all the right things to say but their actions don’t back up what they tell you. Perhaps they aren’t there when you need them or they seem distracted and don’t make you a priority.
Love bombing may occur to build trust initially. Abusive relationships can often begin with flowers, cards, gifts and expressions of love. You’ll feel on top of the world and loved unconditionally. But then something happens that is completely incongruent with what they have been telling you. They suddenly become angry with you, or they start a fight over something small. All of a sudden the person you fell in love with, switches and this other person emerges – like Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde – don’t ignore the switch! health stable people tend to be consistent with their love for you.
You may hear the words, “I cant turn off the love for you” but then they back out of important holiday plans at the very last minute or seemingly have no qualms with ending the relationship when you challenge them on something – that’s not love. That’s control.
Subtle Manipulation exists
Manipulators will steal your joy and create conflict and inopportune times. Things will be going well and “BAM”, they will inject conflict. They’ll tell half-truths or straight-out lies and when they have enough people squabbling, they’ll be the saviour. ‘Don’t worry. I’m here for you.’ They’ll listen, they’ll comfort, and they’ll tell you what you want to hear. And then they’ll ruin you.
They’ll change the facts of a situation, take things out of context and use your words against you. They’ll calmly poke you until you crack, and then they’ll poke you for cracking (this is called reactive abuse). There’s just no reasoning with a manipulator, so forget trying to explain yourself. The argument will run in circles and there will be no resolution. It’s a black hole. Don’t get sucked in. You will never be right and they will never take responsibility for their actions.
They’ll only hear things through their negative filter, so the more you talk, the more they’ll twist what you’re saying. They want power, not a relationship. They’ll use your weaknesses against you and they’ll use your strengths – your kindness, your openness, your need for stability in the relationship. If they’re showing tenderness, be careful – there’s something you have that they want. Show them the door, and lock it when they leave.
Secrecy is normal in your relationship
Perhaps they don’t introduce you to people, or they often have to work late with very little notice. They might hide their phone from you or be vague about future plans. They’ll lie outright or they’ll give you versions of the truth – not a lie, not the truth, just that feeling in your gut that something is off. You can’t believe a word they say. There’s no honesty, which means there’s no intimacy. At worst bullshitters are heartbreakers. At best they’re raving bores.
When a person’s dishonest behaviour is pointed out, it can be very difficult for that person to accept it. There is a contradiction between how a person views him- or herself (I’m honest) and their actual deceptive behaviour (lying) – cognitive dissonance.
This creates dissonance or stress (see cognitive dissonance – Wikipedia). Many people react to the contradiction between their image and their behaviour by attacking the person or persons who pointed out the inconsistency.
It is very difficult for most people to accept the idea that they sometimes engage in deceptive and unethical behaviour. Unfortunately, it’s easier to attack the person who is exposing the truth.
Your partner gets Angry when you ask questions
Asking questions about their whereabouts makes them angry. Instead of responding with “I am sorry, I didn’t realise you felt that way”, your partner will most likely attack you back. “What do you mean? ” They will go on the defensive no matter how calmly and non-confrontational you are. (see “talk in a non-confrontational manner” below)
Linked to narcissism
Trust is destroyed but you can bet it will be turned back on you – nothing I do is ever enough for you. I always get it wrong. You are jealous etc I can’t seem to make you happy – it all becomes about you instead of the person who is creating the problems looking in at their own behaviour. It will be your fault somehow and when that happens, it’s not possible to reach a resolution. Abusive individuals have poor boundaries and lack genuine empathy. They feign empathy but it will only get them so far.
They enjoy the attention and may have several interested parties floating around to soothe their ego. They may find it hard to tell others that they are in a committed relationship and the consequence is their partner never feels truly loved. This shows clear psychological issues and a confused approach to how healthy relationships work and last.
The cycle of abuse – recognise this?
Emotional abuse and lying go hand in hand. There will be rising tension. You’ll feel it. You’ll tread carefully and you’ll be scared of saying or doing the wrong thing. Eventually, there will be an explosion. A fight. There will be physical or emotional abuse and it will be terrifying. At first, you’ll make excuses – ‘I shouldn’t have said that/ did that/ gone out/ had an opinion/ said no.
Unacceptable behaviour – lying or omitting to others the status of your relationship, keeping options open with exes. Threatening to leave you even when they know that they don’t really mean it. Raging at you and not stopping. Lying to you about where they are, who they are or making up stories that aren’t true thereby creating false perceptions. Being unfaithful. never accepting their part in the destruction of the relationship. Saying they will change but never taking the steps. Trying to control or manipulate you. Splitting – where they try to create a rift between you and your family/friends. Coercive control – a subtle form of control, body language, the silent treatment. etc
Then, the honeymoon. The abuser can be wonderfully kind and loving when they need to be, but only when they need to be. You’ll be so desperate for things to get better that you’ll believe the apologies, the tenderness, the declarations of love, the promises.
The tension will start to rise again. Over time, the cycle will get shorter and it will happen more often. The tension will rise quicker, the explosions will be bigger, the honeymoons will be shorter.
Regarding tension – if the tension is over infidelity or any of the above unacceptable behaviours – there is a valid reason for the tensions and this isn’t necessarily abuse. It becomes abusive when the conflict emerges over very little – what you said or didn’t say,
If someone says they love and adore you as long as you don’t step over the lines that they have drawn and if you do, they withdraw that love in order to control you and your behaviour – it’s abuse.
Example: If you do this or that, don’t behave, I will cancel the holiday we booked or I will break up with you.
You need to run, don’t walk, away!! An abuser is unlikely to change. If you choose to stay, you will have to accept the accompanying chaos and lies. If you’re smart you will leave. It will hurt like hell initially but in the end, you will be free of the emotional hell.
Tell yourself: It’s nothing to do with me. I could only work with the information they gave me and I always thought the best of people. They’re the one with the problem, not me. Staying with a liar and/or a manipulator will lead to more gaslighting and crazy-making and you will begin to doubt your sanity! Trust me on this.
If this is familiar, you’re in a cycle of abuse. It’s not love. It’s not stress. It’s not your fault. It’s abuse. The honeymoon will be one of the things that keeps you there. The love will feel real and you’ll crave it, of course you will – that’s completely understandable – but listen to this: Love after abuse isn’t love, it’s manipulation. If the love was real, there would be mountains moved to make sure you were never hurt or scared again.
What to do about a lying partner
Don’t ignore the red flags or warning signs in the beginning
Everyone makes mistakes but watch out for a pattern of behaviour. Take note because these are often signs of their true nature. Pay attention to your intuition – it’s a lot easier to get out early than to fall deeply and then try to leave.
The first strategy to getting people to be honest deals with limiting the number of questions you ask.
For instance, asking…
- where were you?
- who were you with?
- what were you doing?
… is not always a good idea because it often leads other people to be less candid. Asking someone a lot of questions also tends to make people feel less in control—it takes away their sense of freedom. People like to feel like they have some choice over what they talk about. So when you ask a lot of questions, people feel like they are being imposed upon. And when this happens, people often lie as a means of protecting their privacy or as an attempt to regain their autonomy
Talk in a calm non-confrontational manner
Rather than focusing on your partner’s use of deception, try to phrase the problem in the least judgmental way possible by focusing on your own feelings. For instance, it helps to start such conversations by saying:
- Something I discovered is upsetting me. I’m concerned (sad, hurt, frustrated) about… and I want to be able to talk with you about it…
- Of course, this method is far from perfect, and it usually requires that both people have good communication skills. But, this method does work better than simply attacking or blaming a partner for his or her deceptive behaviour.The added benefit of using this approach is that if you can create a sense of understanding and a willingness to discuss problems without a lot of negativity, partners will feel more comfortable discussing issues in the future
Don’t ask questions initially (if you decide to work and it)
As hard as this may seem – don’t confront them initially if you find evidence of deceit or dishonesty. Gather your wits and be on guard until you have enough clear evidence to confront your partner with. Nine times out of ten they will deny it and use every trick in the book to persuade you otherwise.
If you want someone to talk about an issue, rather than ask questions, it helps to offer similar information about yourself. When people disclose information about themselves, there is an obligation to do the same—this is “reciprocity” at work.
For example, if someone offers you details about their day, what they did, who they ran into, what they thought about… you should do the same. People are designed to treat others as they are treated. Kindness is generally met with kindness, meanness with meanness, and information with information (see Foa & Foa).
Moreover, this type of interaction seems more spontaneous and natural than asking a lot of questions.
For the most part, talking about yourself tends to be a great way to get other people to talk.
Others will break it off with you when the heat gets too much. They want to be in control and when their house of cards starts to buckle, they will run. Instead of feeling you have lost the love of your life, switch your thinking by telling yourself you have had a lucky escape to get away from their tangled web of deceit.
These people are toxic and will gaslight you and bring you to the depths of despair. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, especially if you aren’t normally a jealous suspicious person in relationships.
It may hurt initially to make the break but your future self will thank you for saving your sanity and opening the door to someone who can handle a mature committed relationship with you.
When you realize the other person is not willing to shoot straight with you and won’t take responsibility, there’s little chance trust can be regained. So walk away.
If this means ending a relationship, so be it. There are too many good, honest people in the world to get yourself tangled up with someone who is dishonest with you.
You can’t change them – you have to leave them. Sometimes therapy can work but a lot of effort is required for a compulsive liar to be able to give up old habits. Lying is a defence mechanism and it usually serves the person well so they will fight to keep that habit. Those that do manage to change realise that the relationship they have is the priority.